Some movies are difficult to review, simply because talking about them to people who may be reading before they've seen them ruins them just by giving away too much information. In the case of Good Manners, I would definitely say that the less you know about this movie before you see it, the better. That said, I have deliberately avoiding outright spoilers below in an attempt to give my thoughts on this wildly original movie some shape.
We first meet Clara (Isabél Zuaa) as she arrives at a wealthy address in Sao Paulo. She is there for an interview as a nanny and from the outset, everything is just slightly off. It takes time for her to gain entry to the building and when she arrives at the apartment belonging to Ana (Marjorie Estiano), she has to wait and listen the end of the previous interviewee's grilling. The interview is awkward and it very soon becomes clear that Clara is certainly not the best candidate for the role but the pair seem to develop some sort of bond during the process and Clara is hired with immediate effect.
Clara heads back home to collect her things, only to find her oddball singing landlady is holding them hostage as rent is overdue. Having liberated her clothing (but not her microwave), Clara moves in with Ana to become her housemaid whilst they await the arrival of the child (still some months off). Things look good, the baby is healthy and the doctor is happy, though he insists on a vegetarian diet for Ana. But as the baby develops, Ana's sleepwalking becomes more of a problem until...well, to go much further would really spoil the surprise.
Co-written and directed by Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas, this is very definitely a movie of two halves. What starts off as an effective physiological drama with the two women building an edgy, slightly weird relationship (Clara is much more than a housemaid), morphs spectacularly at about the midpoint and heads off in an entirely different direction. Which certainly isn't to say this is an issue, somehow the directors pull this off with some style.
The genius here is in the consistently subtle undermining of our expectations for the setup in the first half. Everything about the movie is just slightly off centre but not so much as to make it obvious what is to come, just enough to set out nerves on edge. Ana's slightly odd reaction to Clara arriving at the apartment, the fact that Ana's clearly not as wealthy as she looks, Ana's mysterious relationship with her parents and the opaque conception of the child all make us wonder about the mother. Add to this the piles of shrink-wrapped meat in the fridge and the incredibly taciturn performance by Zuaa as Clara and it adds up to a very effective atmosphere.
To an extent though it's the odd playful moments that really set you wondering, this is also a movie with a great, if slightly odd sense of humour. Clara's landlady's baffling signing style, the slightly out of kilter soundtrack, the cheerily ignorant doctor.... You can tell this is all going sideways but when it actually happens, you are still utterly wrong footed by events.
Good Manners is definitely a movie best served cold. It is clearly from the minds of some very odd people and it plays it's weirdness perfectly. Part psychological terror, part coming of age movie, part WTF just happened... This is a true original, in the best possible sense.